Like Characters in Heroes on Demand, or Villains in Threat Assessment, Backdrops will bring you a series of campaign elements ready to drop into your home game.
Without further ado:
From humble beginnings, through glorious heights, and finally falling into decadence and decay, the Magocracy of Naar is perhaps the single greatest arcane society to ever exist. Founded on the teachings of the wizard-philosopher Foriam Naar, who postulated that arcane energy is the only true power and that all of creation are shadows of this single primal source. He decried the known gods as shadowy aspects of a semi-sentient font of arcane power, and theorized that the power of faith had shaped the gods, but robbed them of their true potential. His teachings became a religion that spread quickly around his homeland.
Although he did not live to see it, Naar’s followers began to combine traditional arcane studies with aspects of the divine, creating for the first time in history Mystic Theurges, true masters of all aspects of magic. Over time, the followers and their religion rose from an obscure sect observed only by scholarly elite, to the state religion of their homeland. During a political crisis, the leaders of the faith stepped into the role of leaders of the nation, and the Magocracy was born. The powers of divination and predicting the future guided the government in many of its decisions.
Within one-hundred years of its formation, Naar had expanded from a single city-state to a wide ranging empire. Their military was bolstered by arcane and divine devices, supplemented by constructs, charmed creatures, and even the reanimated dead, all lead by the most potent and effective wizards in the world at the time. Where other fledgling empires struggled to build roads to connect their cities and neighbors, Naar was able to build great arcane gates allowing instantaneous travel.
As Naar continued to grow, the Forum, the ruling council, expanded as well. Whenever possible, representatives of the conquered lands were promoted to the Forum; however the peculiarities of voting policy – specifically a member received a single vote, a member who was either a wizard or cleric received an additional vote, and a theurge received three votes – made it impossible for the conquered lands to hold equal power to the home lands.
As Naar continued to expand, entire regions became surrounded by the Magocracy without having ever been conquered. These hedgelands as they came to be known prospered under the defacto protection they received. By this time, no one power was a true threat to Naar, and crossing their borders to raid independent villages was tantamount to suicide. Naar did not post lonely soldiers in far flung outposts to guard against intruders, instead they made use of teams of arcanists utilizing powerful scrying equipment. Scarcely a bird crossed their border unnoticed.
It was in this time the Primus Hogu Radu, leader of the Forum, announced his intention to construct a great edifice to serve as his tomb. Through divine creation and arcane empowerment, he created a perfect cube of unnatural black stone some fifty feet on a side which, through arcane power, floated almost six feet above the ground. A complex and labyrinthine tomb was excavated below the cube, filled with guardians and traps to ward off tomb robbers. When Hogu Radu died he was interred in his final resting place, with his worldly possessions and his collected knowledge surrounding him.
Hogu Radu’s tomb became a symbol of the nation, and one which was often copied. From tiny cubes six feet on a side floating inches off the ground marking the resting place of minor officials in outlying towns to the Field of Memories where Hogu Radu’s tomb is one among a hundred, the greatest of which is over two-hundred feet on a side, there are over one thousand known tombs of the type, and more discovered each year.
Hogu Radu’s invention also marked the beginning of another more sinister element of life and death in the Magocracy. With so much arcane and divine power centralized in the powerful ruling elite of the nation, it was inevitable that some dark hearts would be found as well. There were those theurges who turned their power to extending their own life even beyond death. Although it was rare for them to truly organize in to a group of any size, they were collectively known as the Everlords. The Forum declared the Everlords to be abominations, and set to rooting them out whenever they were found, but such cancerous corruption was easily hidden in the far flung outposts or even in the Hedgelands.
After nearly one thousand years in power, the Magocracy began to falter. As the Magocracy spread across the land and sea, the population of those with the gift for arcane abilities did not keep pace with the increasing need. For the first time, conquered peoples were enslaved rather than incorporated into the nation. Forced labor became a punishment for crimes. From the construction of temples, to the sweeping of streets, the common people who had prospered for ten centuries under the benevolent rule of wizards, priests, and theurges were suddenly being used by their betters. The gulf in social status between those with magical ability and the rest of the population grew terrifyingly quickly. Regions from which no spellcasters had been drawn were abandoned, leaving them defenseless if they were on the borders. Meanwhile the Hedgelands, long standing trading partners and allies in many ways, were ruthlessly conquered to be plundered for their resources.
Despite all this the Magocracy could have endured another five hundred years on momentum alone, except the universe intervened. Whatever cosmic tides there are, or if indeed arcane force is a semi-sentient energy, power was drained away from the Magocracy. The network of gates for teleporting from one place to another no longer functioned without powerful magic users powering them. All but the most powerful casters were locked away from the network. The Magocracy’s long standing military doctrine of maintaining combat forces in powerful, but isolated reserves back fired when without the gates they could not respond rapidly. Outside forces, rebellious citizens, vengeful Hedgelands, and insane Everlords tore the nation apart.
Isolated pockets endured for a time, and to this day many regions can trace their histories to Naar, but of the true glory of the Magocracy, only relics remain.
Naar can be used as a campaign backdrop in any of four key eras:
The Rise Era: From its initial foundation Naar grew rapidly, through cunning planning and military might. During this time characters could be scouts, on the fringes of the empire looking for new targets of expansion, or the could be the defenders of communities targeted by the expanding juggernaut. For a non-military campaign, the players could be negotiators on either side of the battle lines.
The Golden Era: At its height Naar stretched thousands of miles in every direction, encompassing a wide array of terrains all connected by a network of teleportation gates, but they have never fully explored the territory they claim. Characters in this era could be explorers, searching inside and outside the empire for treasures. They could be residents of the Hedgelands, relatively safe, but surrounded by the sleeping giant. This is also an excellent era for a political campaign.
The Fall: Naar did not fall quietly. Abandoning areas to try to hold others by force. The loss of the gate network. Internal and external forces worked hard to bring the empire down. Characters in this era are thrown into the meat grinder. Whichever side they work for is working to accomplish their own objective.
The Ruins: After the fall of Naar, many wild and monstrous things that had been held at bay came to power in the vacuum. Orc, orges, goblinoids, and worse things rose up to form nations of their own. The Hedgeland nations, and many of the outlying regions of Naar became centers of culture and learning, and bastions against the dark. This era closely resembles typical fantasy settings, with the normal array of options for characters, but with the lingering history of Naar.
Student of Naar
Prerequisites: Ability to cast divine and arcane spells. Learned the traditional Naar practices.
Benefit: Increase the caster level of your arcane spells from a single class by 2. Increase the caster level of your divine spells from a single class by 2.
Note: This feat allows a Mystic Theurge to effectively cast spells at character level.
Scion of Naar
Prerequisites: Ability to spontaneously cast spells
Benefit: When adding spells to your known spell list, you may select a single spell at each level from the opposite spell type. Arcane casters can learn divine, divine casters can learn arcane.
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